He's positive about India

He's positive about India

SINGAPORE - If a foreign investor were to visit the office of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), this in itself is a good way to attract him to this country.

Perched on the 28th floor of Raffles City Tower, the lobby of the office offers breathtaking views of the city and the Marina Bay area. As for those working with the EDB, their sights are set on faraway shores looking at companies that will add value to Singapore by their presence here.

One of them who has, over the years, built a reputation for facilitating the entry of firms from India into Singapore is Mr Lee Eng Keat. As international director looking after the Asia Pacific, Mr Lee, 40, is an old India hand having spent two years in Mumbai from 2009. These days, he visits India once every three to four months to renew business relationships and oversee the work done in India by his colleagues at the EDB's two offices in Delhi and Mumbai.

In the last 10 years, the number of Indian companies setting up offices in Singapore has grown tremendously - from about 1,100 companies to more than 5,000 companies now. What is the reason for this growth?

Mr Lee says that while many Indian companies enjoy high domestic growth they want to have an overseas presence to internationalise their operations. And Singapore offers the perfect location.

"We offer them that opportunity. They can use Singapore to reach out to overseas markets, find best practices in their own businesses and find international talent to augment their talent pool," he says, adding that Singapore is a place where Indians find themselves quite comfortable.

Indian companies, Mr Lee says, are the largest foreign business community in Singapore and adds: "I think it is a testament to the work we are doing in terms of creating an awareness of the value that Singapore can add and from that they build it up as a base to do more substantial operations here."

The EDB offers tax incentives or training grants to Indian companies moving here to train the Singaporeans and Permanent Residents they employ. This helps, he notes, to mitigate start-up costs but it is not meant to sustain the companies.

When Indian and other foreign companies move to Singapore they help in creating jobs for locals. For example when Indian IT firms move here, they develop new businesses which results in the need to hire locals and PRs. Similarly when some firms set up regional headquarters here, human resource jobs open up. When trading companies move in, they need logistics firms and banks to support them. All this creates jobs.

"At the end of the day, Singapore is a regional headquarters and we need a diversity and an ecosystem of companies from around the world to create a synergy for all," says Mr Lee on the benefits of foreign firms coming to Singapore.

He notes that India's IT growth story has not ceased for Singapore. "Perhaps it has taken a different flavour. In the past it was very outsourcing in nature. But increasingly it is veering towards solutions and value creation, which is along the lines the Singapore economy is growing."

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